John Hart: 'Determined to safeguard support for young, old and vulnerable people'

John Hart: 'Determined to safeguard support for young, old and vulnerable people'

Updated: 27 days, 9 hours, 46 minutes, 31 seconds ago

We have identified around £50million of savings that will not involve cutting budgets for buses, children's centres, libraries and pothole repairs this year.

By John Hart, leader of Devon County Council

This is my first column of 2023 so I would like to wish you a belated Happy New Year. Let's hope 2023 will be better than 2022.

As far as the county council is concerned, we are beginning the new year in a rather more optimistic mood than we ended the old one.

Regular readers of this column might remember that back in the summer I warned that the county council's finances were in a dire state due to the perfect storm of Covid, Putin's war in Ukraine, soaring inflation and the unprecedented demand on our services - particularly our support for vulnerable children and adults.

I was fearful then that we could have to make sweeping budget cuts to balance our books, as all councils are legally required to do, and without more financial support from the Government our prospects were bleak.

As a council, we didn't just wait around hoping for the Government to help out. We set up a high-powered team of officers from across every department who worked with us to go through every line of the budget to see where we could cut costs and reduce spending.

Thanks to their efforts, we have identified around £50million of savings that will not involve cutting budgets for buses, children's centres, libraries and pothole repairs this year.

That’s a massive relief because I came into local government more than 30 years ago to try to improve services and make life better for people.

Then just before Christmas we heard the Government would allow us to increase our overall budget by just under ten per cent. That includes more support from central Government and the facility to raise council tax by more than the usual three per cent  - particularly for social care.

What all this means is that we will be able to increase our spending on services this year while at the same time cutting our costs and making other savings.

So our target revenue budget proposes an overall 10.5 per cent increase from £630million to £696million with most of the extra money concentrated on vulnerable children and adults.

We’re proposing a 18.4 per cent increase in spending on children's services with an 8.8 per cent rise in adult social care. The budget for public health and communities would go up by 5.4 per cent and climate change, environment and transport by 3.5 per cent.

Make no mistake, we're not out of the woods yet. The hangover from Covid and Putin's continuing war in Ukraine have rocked the global economy. The effects are still being felt and our finances will continue to be under severe pressure.

But we are determined to safeguard support for the young, the old and vulnerable people in our county.

Every day we hear examples of how hard-pressed the NHS is. By working with health and the voluntary sector we need to be investing more in social care to reduce bed blocking and take some of the pressure off our doctors and nurses.

We need to continue investing in modernising our services for children and young people to give them the best start in life.

And we must ensure Devon has good infrastructure - roads, rail and broadband - so that our economy can grow and our people can prosper.

hit counter